Life and Death Decision Making in Mozambique

I will be returning to the Zambezi Delta Region this summer to conduct research for the Sequel to Staying Alive – How to Act Fast and Survive Deadly Encounters.  The research for this book will require extensive travel to conduct interviews with people who face life and death encounters.  For Staying Alive, we interviewed survivors of mass casualty shootings, other weapons assaults and military combatThe next book will be based on interviews with a variety of practitioners who make life and death decisions on a regular and sometimes, daily basis. 

On this trip, I will have the opportunity to interview a fascinating individual, Poen Van Zyl.  Poen works as a guide in one of the most heavily populated wild game preserves in the world.  A South African citizen, Poen is fluent in English, Afrikaans, Portuguese and several tribal languages.  The vast and unfenced property Poen and a group of anti-poaching game scouts protect is home to astounding numbers of wildlife in comparison to a zoo or fenced national park.  The wildlife I saw visiting the National Park in Nairobi last month was depressingly paltry compared to the Zambezi Delta region, one of the last truly wild places in Africa.   While meat poaching rages out of control in most parts of the continent today, the thousands of square miles of the undeveloped Zambeze Delta region are home to bewildering numbers of wild and free animals whose numbers are steadily increasing through privately funded anti-poaching efforts.

Like the Africa of old, this means that someone taking a simple stroll in the woods can easily have a deadly encounter with a lion, elephant, cape buffalo, hippopotamus, or one of the regions innumerable crocodiles.  As but one example of the potential danger, a university study revealed that statistically, one person is eaten every other day in one fifty mile stretch of the Zambezi River. 

Poen and his masterful bush trackers know how to spot a mamba in the forest, the tiniest sign of an unexploded landmine left over from the bush war, a carefully concealed triggering device for a leg-hold hold trap made from a rusty car door spring, the faint sign of a lion is concealed in the bush or the body language of an elephant that indicates an impending charge.  Poen kindly agreed to share with me how they and the clients they guide into this remote wilderness region can travel such danger-filled territory in relative safety.  I will see how these brave men use situational awareness and pattern matching and recognition to detect and react to danger.  Like the public safety officials, members of elite military units, and emergency medical professionals I will interview, Poen and his game scouts will explain life-saving skills that can impact who lives and who dies.

I am excited to be able to interview the amazing men who make it their life’s mission to face death in the long grass with anticipation and respect for nature rather than fear.  I feel truly blessed and fortunate to be able to meet and interact with such fascinating people.  


About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.